Love your Enemies and Turn the Other Cheek
Jesus knew that soon He would be leaving his followers and going back to Heaven. He had so much more to tell them, but they still didn’t understand many of lessons He had already given them. So He knew they were not ready for more.
These are Jesus’ words to his beloved followers. “I have much more to say to you, but you cannot bear these teachings now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth comes to you, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own: He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. The Holy Spirit will bring glory to Me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. “(John 16:12-14)
Jesus’ teachings are for all of His followers, past and present and future. But we, like his followers back then, cannot appreciate some of His teachings without Gods’ help. The Father takes what is Christs’ and gives it to us – but we sometimes miss the meaning of the spiritual mysteries we are given. Seeds of truth falling into the soil of our hearts but not sprouting! And precious spiritual treasures given to us for our joy and peace that we are not able to fully understand!
These teachings of Jesus are spiritually discerned and cannot be taken in by our earthly minds and hearts. But God gives us the Help we need. He gives us the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, to open our hearts so that we can understand these deep truths. And we must listen for His still small Voice in our lives.
We will go over several of Jesus’ teachings today. But if we do not completely understand them, remember Jesus knows that. And He also promises the Holy Spirit to us to help open our minds and hearts. Today we will briefly go over two of Jesus’ teachings that some find difficult to follow.
First, Jesus teaches us to love our enemies. Let’s listen to His words. “You have heard that you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons and daughters of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your relatives, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
Jesus is telling us here that it is the great duty of each Christian to love her or his enemies. To be children of our Father in heaven who loves and gives to those who oppose Him. We must have compassion for those who ridicule us Jesus says. Speak well of them and bless them when they curse us! Do good to those who hate us! And pray for those that despitefully use us and persecute us. When Jesus warned that some of His teachings would be difficult for us to understand, maybe this is one of them.
It goes against our natural instincts to love our enemies, doesn’t it? But Jesus promises to send His Spirit to help us understand this teaching and also to give us the power to obey it. The power to be free to love and forgive our enemies. As children of the loving Father we are to be loving like Him and to not get caught up in the cruel prison of hating and fighting and insulting others. We are not to play the world’s games. And we are never to look for revenge. We are to give our enemies to God and pray that He will put our relationship with them back together. And we are to walk in love and forgiveness. As His children, God calls us to this freedom!
Along with this teaching on loving our enemies, Jesus also gives us another difficult teaching. He tells us that when we are slapped on one cheek we are to turn the other cheek! Let’s listen to His words. ” You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other cheek also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42)
I do not believe that Jesus is telling us to stand aside and allow criminals to rob or murder us or family members or others. Scripture tells us to resist evil doers. God helped the nation of Israel fight to protect their land from enemies. There are times when we have to fight against aggressors, false teachers, murderers or robbers. Every nation needs an army to protect their very existence. So this is not what Jesus meant here!
But many major wars that spread over large areas have started out from small disagreements. One country envying another over something they had that the other didn’t have. Or one group insulting or taking advantage of the other. And all of this warring causing much devastation and misery to many innocent people. Jesus calls us to make a treaty with the aggressor if possible. To negotiate before going to war. To do what we can to keep the peace. Turn the other cheek. Speak kindly and respectfully to the enemy. Stop an argument from growing into something much bigger and more deadly.
This command also goes against our natural instincts. Fighting is so much easier than forgiving. We do not want to appear weak to our enemies. Our reputations are so important to us. We have been taught to fight for our “honor” and stand up for our rights. And again Jesus is commanding us to leave all this behind and go down a different road. To not to play the world’s games and not cut our enemies down to defend our own reputation. To let Jesus be our strong defense. If we get down in the dirt and fight with our enemy in a war or the courts or elsewhere, we will lose our joy and our peace and our loving spirit. We can become hateful and bitter, unforgiving and maybe even hard hearted. Our Father has better things that that for us.
Without the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance these teachings of Jesus are almost impossible to follow. But if we live with openness and humility to Christ’s Spirit and try to obey and allow Him to guide us, we can take this journey of learning to love the enemy step by step. We are to open our hearts to all God has for us. Let’s live the good life.